New Cartoon: The ABC's of AIDS
A primer for proper ladies and gentlemen around the world
(click panel to see full cartoon)
With a major international conference on AIDS being opened by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan today in Bangkok, there are fears that lives are at risk in some of the world's poorest countries because of American objections to a 'safe sex' approach to combating AIDS.
Hillary Benn, the UK's International Development Secretary, who spearheads Britain's fight against AIDS overseas, told The Observer that an abstinence-only approach would not work. 'We need to have all the means at our disposal to fight the epidemic,' he said. 'People should have access to condoms.'
In Brussels, Poul Nielson, the EU's outspoken Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, criticized America for 'preaching one line only and denying people's rights by trying to push them into abstinence. It will weaken the battle against AIDS, and the unfortunate reality is that it will directly endanger the lives of millions of women.'
Under the influence of the Christian right, Bush has adopted the so-called ABC approach to AIDS prevention - A for abstinence, B for being faithful and C for condoms. But condoms are to be promoted only for use by 'high risk groups' such as prostitutes and drug abusers, with sexual abstinence the objective for all unmarried young people.
Unusually open criticism of US policy has also come from UNAIDS, the UN body responsible for co-ordinating the global response to AIDS. Dr Peter Piot, executive director, said: 'We know condoms save lives. We are not in the business of morality. Condom promotion should be part of education about sexuality for young people.'
So faced with a pandemic that is killing millions around the world, who does Bush jump to protect: the millions whose lives could be saved through comprehensive sex-education and condom-distribution programs (not to mention low-cost AIDS drugs), or his credibility with religious conservatives (and the patents of his favorite pharmaceutical companies)?